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Friday, September 24, 2010

Backpack Angels

Florida Catholic writer Bob Reddy, reports from North Port, the plight of homeless teens and their struggle to fit in at a local high school and how seven Catholic women decided put into action the words they learned from Jesus at Mass, “to help their fellow human beings.”

“Something just clicked when we read about 35 homeless students attending North Port High School,” said Cheryl Doyle, co-founder of the North Port Coalition for Homeless Students, more commonly known in the tight-knit community as “Backpack Angels.” “Our mission is to ensure that these kids are able to stay in school.”

“There are in fact approximately 200 students attending school in North Port who are considered homeless. The students range in age from 6 to 18 and are homeless for a variety of reasons: home foreclosure, parents in jail, runaways and many more reasons. Some live with relatives, and some live alone in the woods or in cars. Some live with friends temporarily,” Doyle said. “We learned that they want to go to school, but without basic personal hygiene supplies they are too embarrassed to go to school. We asked how we can help and came up with the idea of filling backpacks with the needed supplies.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane of the Diocese of Venice said the “Backpack Angels” serve as examples of what Jesus taught about the need to help your fellow human beings. “This is an inspirational story of people learning about a problem and doing something about it. We should all look at what is happening in our own communities and decide to make a difference like this group.”

The “Backpack Angels” first solicited donations from their fellow parishioners, and it has grown from there, Doyle explained.

Cash donations are accepted and used to purchase food vouchers and bus passes. Other money goes to purchase bicycles for the students to use and get to school or work as well.

Anyone wishing to donate supplies and to learn more about the North Port Coalition for Homeless Students can e-mail Cheryl Doyle at Mail checks to: North Port Coalition for Homeless Children, P.O. Box 6826, North Port, FL 34290.
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